Unauthorized Version

Are you allowing God to weave you into His great tapestry? Are you participating with God in writing His poem-story of creation, or, are you writing an unauthorized version? 

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does (poieo) the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform (poieo) many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice (ergazomai) lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23 (NASB) 

But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Go away; the things you did were unauthorized.’ Matthew 7:23 (NLT) 

I always wondered about this verse. How could doing such good things as prophesying, setting people free, and doing miracles be considered “lawlessness” or illegality, unrighteousness, even wickedness? Why wouldn’t that be the will of God? Aren’t we encouraged to do good works? Aren’t we even told that faith without works is dead (James 2:26)? The answer to these questions lies in the meanings of the two Greek words “poieo” and “ergazomai.”

Jesus said you must poieo the will of God, and they asked back, “Well, didn’t we poeio?” Jesus answered, “No, you ergazomai.” Jesus is getting to the motivations of the heart here. Poieo is a beautiful word that is the root of our English word “poem.” It means to do, to make a thing out of something, produce, bear, shoot forth, form, fashion, be the author of. But is also means to carry out, celebrate or keep, to make ready. It has a very creative, fruitful meaning. It is the same word as Acts 14:15, “We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made (poieo) heaven and earth and sea and everything in them.” Poieo is the root of “poiema,” translated “workmanship” in Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are His workmanship” – or work of God as creator and author – literally product or fabric (this makes me think of a beautiful tapestry), God’s poem-story. And when we participate in God’s poieo, we “shoot forth” and bear fruit.

Ergazomai, on the other hand, means to “do business,” to work, labor, to trade, to make gains by trading, to work for, earn by working. It is not that doing these good things were wrong, it is that they were doing them for the wrong reason. They were “doing business” or making a trade with God, saying in effect, “See? I did all these wonderful things. Now you have to let me into heaven.” As Timothy Keller writes, “Careful obedience to God’s law may serve as a strategy for rebelling against God” … “You can avoid Jesus as Savior by keeping all the moral laws. If you do that, then you have ‘rights.’ God owes you answered prayers, and a good life, and a ticket to heaven when you die. You don’t need a Savior who pardons you by free grace, for you are your own Savior.”¹

“Evil most often occurs when you think you are doing good or when you trust yourself to be well-intentioned and therefore immune from wrong.”–Suzanne Guthrie

“When you trust yourself.” Jesus said to the many in the above verse, “I never knew you.” In other words, “You never took the time to know me and know my will. You never trusted me to write your story.”

Those doing their own good works were not participating in creating God’s great tapestry, or writing His great poem-story, of creation and redemption. They were creating their own work, writing their own story or autobiography. They didn’t trust God to write it; they wanted to be their own god. I like how the New Living Testament translates it – “the things you did were unauthorized.”

Are you allowing God to weave you into His great tapestry? Are you participating with God in writing His poem-story of creation, or, are you writing an unauthorized version?

The difference between an authorized biography and an unauthorized biography is that an authorized biography is written with the input and approval of the biographee and an unauthorized biography is not. It would seem that an unauthorized autobiography – the writing of your own life story – would be impossible, an oxymoron.

How can an autobiography, the writing of one’s own story, be unauthorized? Only if you are not your own, only if you have been bought with a price, only if you have died and Christ now lives in you. Then it is His story you are writing – or rather, He is writing in you. It may be a story of the journey from doubt to belief, as Thomas’ story (John 20:24-28). Or, a story of guilt, shame, and rejection to forgiveness and acceptance, as Mary Magdalene’s story (John 8:2-11; Luke 7:36-50). Or, a story of a turning from self-righteousness, hypocritical Pharisee-ism and distain of others to repentance, humility and the revelation of His amazing grace, as Paul’s story (Acts 9:1-19).

For we are His workmanship (poiema), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NASB)

It’s not “doing business,” it’s walking with God, abiding in his Presence, so we can know his will – the good works prepared for us. It’s trusting him, that he knows what he is doing. The thing about a tapestry is that it can look pretty messy before it is finished. And if you let the Author write the story, you have to wait until it is done to know how it turns out. You might have to let him write you into some situations you would rather not be in, doing some good works you would rather not do. But he has prepared beforehand. He has already done what he is asking you to do.

I know this post is getting long, but I have to share about the amazing word translated “prepared” here. It comes from a word that means to send before kings on their journeys persons to level the roads and make them passable. It means to prepare the minds of men to receive the Messiah. It reminds me of Isaiah 40:3.

A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.”

Could it be that when I do the good works that God wants me to do I am participating in preparing the way for the King?!

Lord help me trust that you know what you are doing. Help me seek your will and the works you prepared beforehand for me, and only me, to do. Let me prepare the way for the King. Write me into your story!

Jesus
Write me into Your story
Whisper it to me
And let me know I’m Yours–Rich Mullins 

For I have come down from heaven, not to do (poieo) My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 6:38 (NASB)

Jesus said to them, “My food is to do (poieo) the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” John 4:34 (NASB)

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do (poieo) what I say? Luke 6:46

 

¹ Timothy Keller, Prodigal God. New York: Dutton, 2008. p. 37

Image: Creation Tapestry, c. 1100. Embroidered in wool and linen on a wool background, 12’ x 15’ 8″. Currently in the Gerona Cathedral Treasury in Spain.
http://historiated.tumblr.com/ 

Worthless Words

It seems shocking to read Jeremiah call God unfaithful and deceitful, but isn’t that what we do every time we utter pessimistic, fatalistic, cynical, and despairing words? “What’s the use?” “Nobody cares?” “It’s hopeless!” and even worse, things like “I hate my life” “I wish I were dead!”

Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails? Therefore this is what the LORD says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman.” Jeremiah 15:18-19

 

For many brutal years Jeremiah was faithful to deliver the Word of God burning in his heart (Jeremiah 20:9). But here he gives in to despair and basically accuses God of being unfaithful and a liar. Earlier in this book (Jeremiah 2:13) God called Himself “the spring of living water.” Here Jeremiah calls God “a deceptive brook,” “a spring that fails.” The word translated “deceptive” means deceitful, treacherous, deception, lie, deceptive, disappointing. Like a mirage in the desert that you run to, but there is no water. Or a spring that is not reliable, not something you can count on, not faithful.

To be fair, Jeremiah was given a very tough mission by God. Called to prophesy things no one wanted to hear, he was persecuted and vilified. And he had to do it all alone, as he was commanded not to marry (Jeremiah 16:2). In verse 15:10 he expresses his wish that he had never been born: “Alas, my mother, that you gave me birth, a man with whom the whole land strives and contends!” He is called the “weeping prophet.”¹

It is so very easy to let negative, “worthless words” come out of our mouths in the midst of hard times – or even minor irritations. It is a particular weakness of mine which I struggle against. And God has, and is, using this verse to help me. It seems shocking to read Jeremiah call God unfaithful and deceitful, but isn’t that what we do every time we utter pessimistic, fatalistic, cynical, and despairing words? “What’s the use?” “Nobody cares!” “It’s hopeless!” and even worse, things like “I hate my life” “I wish I were dead!” What is the truth? That God has a good plan and purpose for your life (Jeremiah 29:11, Isaiah 55:8-11, Romans 8:28), that He disciplines us in order to make us holy so we can be near Him (Hebrews 12:5-6), that He cares deeply for us (1 Peter 5:7, Zephaniah 3:17), that all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26, Philippians 4:13), and that He is always with us through everything (Psalm 73:23, Matthew 28:20).

God responds to Jeremiah by telling him that he must repent and utter worthy, not worthless words, and let God restore him – and so must I. But, God is not saying it in a harsh, judgmental way. If we look at the Hebrew words we see that they tell a familiar story of God’s mercy and unfailing love.

The Hebrew word translated “worthy” in this verse is yaqar (יָקָר), which means valuable, costly, precious, and rare. It also refers to honor, glory, and reputation. Worthy words, then, are precious, valuable, costly like treasure. They reflect on the glory, honor, and reputation of our God. In contrast, the Hebrew word translated “worthless” is zalal (זָלַל) which means shake, tremble, quake – which is what we feel like in these situations, that our world is being shaken. But also, zalal means to be worthless, vile, to make light of, to squander, to be loose morally, a glutton, a prodigal. So uttering worthless words are like the prodigal son squandering the precious inheritance given him by the father and sullying the father’s reputation – The Name and The Word made flesh. One of my sweet sisters put it this way: “God has given our words power in the spiritual realm and we speak our reality in much the same way He spoke ours into being. When we don’t use them to speak truth we are truly squandering that opportunity to speak into our lives and honor God.”

When God tells Jeremiah to repent, the word is shuwb ( שׁוּב), to return, turn back, go again home, bring back, restore, refresh, repair. The word is used twice in a row – if you shuwb, then I will shuwb. I believe God is saying to Jeremiah, “if you turn back – start to go home, as the prodigal son did in the parable – then I will run out to greet you and bring you back home and restore you to your rightful place as my son, and you will again be my spokesman, or be as my mouth.” He is saying the same to you and me. When we are overwhelmed in hopelessness and despair, uttering “worthless words,” he will bring us back, restore, refresh, and repair us if we turn to Him. And, oh how I need to be repaired!

Let me remember that Jesus is the spring of Living Water that never runs dry, that never fails, never disappoints. May true and life-giving, light-giving words come from my mouth. Let me proclaim the Truth, the Word, no matter what the situation or hardship. Help me to keep my eyes fixed on the Son shining above the storm.

So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long distance away, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. Luke 15:20 (NLT)

… in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2-3

See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious (yaqar) cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. Isaiah 28:16

 

[1] “Jeremiah”, New Bible Dictionary, Second Edition, Tyndale Press, Wheaton, IL 1987.

Image in the Public Domain from Wikimedia Commons: detail from Return of the Prodigal Son 1667-1670 Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Oil on canvas, 236 x 262 cm, National Gallery of Art, Washington

 

Uncommon Fragrance of Jesus

I stop trying to be “wonderful” but let Him be the Wonderful One. “Be still and know …” “Seek first the Kingdom.” Stop trying to gain approval, be somehow impressive, be something I am not. But just be what He made me to be – just be. And as that happens His love can flow through me and I will carry the fragrant aroma of his sacrificial love with me wherever I go.

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task? (2 Cor. 2:14-16 NIV)

The word translated equal in this verse is the Greek word hikanos (ἱκανός), which means sufficient, enough, competent, ample in amount or fit in character, worthy. Who indeed is sufficient, competent, or worthy for such a task? What an amazing thing that we could bear, spread, be the fragrance of Christ. Duncan Campbell has written,

“This surely is the ultimate reality and the supreme wonder of human existence, that God can be glorified in us. In other words–we are to be ‘living epistles.’ After all, the greatest contribution you or I can make to the cause of Christ, is the impact of our unconscious influence, and that influence impregnated by the life of Jesus. We will have failed in our object, unless we bring back to our schools, our colleges, our homes and our common task, something of the uncommon fragrance of Jesus. So let us yield to His indwelling that Christ may be able to express His loveliness through us.”—The Price and Power of Revival, Duncan Campbell [emphasis mine]

“[T]he impact of our unconscious influence.” Isn’t it even more amazing, that God could do all this through us – spread the fragrance of Christ’s love and life – and we be unconscious of it! That His Presence, living in me, indwelling me, goes with me and leaves a fragrance of Jesus, inviting, welcoming, attracting – or, sadly, repelling.

Paul says in the above verse that God is spreading this aroma through us. No one is competent or worthy or sufficient in themselves. Jesus is the sufficient, enough, competent, ample in amount, fit in character, worthy One. As Paul says a little later, “Not that we are competent (hikanos) in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God” (2 Cor. 3:5 NIV). But rather it is Christ in me and you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27) as we “yield to His indwelling” and follow Him in the triumphal procession, a willing captive, captivated by His love.

Godliness is the mark of a person whose life is centred in God – a person who has become a vessel of the presence of God. Wherever such a person goes, the atmosphere is permeated by a faint, but unique and pervasive fragrance. There may not be any preaching or other religious activity. Yet people become strangely aware of eternal issues. Teaching Letter No. 24: The Fruit of the Holy Spirit, Derek Prince

It all comes back to the Presence. Abiding in the Presence, the Vine. He in me and I in him. My life centered in Him. My eyes fixed on Jesus, not on myself. I stop trying to be “wonderful” but let Him be the Wonderful One. “Be still and know …” “Seek first the Kingdom.” Stop trying to gain approval, be somehow impressive, be something I am not. But just be what He made me to be – just be. And as that happens His love can flow through me and I will carry the fragrant aroma of his sacrificial love with me wherever I go (Ephesians 5:2).

 “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin”— they simply are! Think of the sea, the air, the sun, the stars, and the moon— all of these simply are as well— yet what a ministry and service they render on our behalf! So often we impair God’s designed influence, which He desires to exhibit through us, because of our own conscious efforts to be consistent and useful. Jesus said there is only one way to develop and grow spiritually, and that is through focusing and concentrating on God. In essence, Jesus was saying, “Do not worry about being of use to others; simply believe on Me.” In other words, pay attention to the Source, and out of you “will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). We cannot discover the source of our natural life through common sense and reasoning, and Jesus is teaching here that growth in our spiritual life comes not from focusing directly on it, but from concentrating on our Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father knows our circumstances, and if we will stay focused on Him, instead of our circumstances, we will grow spiritually— just as “the lilies of the field.”

The people who influence us the most are not those who detain us with their continual talk, but those who live their lives like the stars in the sky and “the lilies of the field”— simply and unaffectedly. Those are the lives that mold and shape us.

If you want to be of use to God, maintain the proper relationship with Jesus Christ by staying focused on Him, and He will make use of you every minute you live— yet you will be unaware, on the conscious level of your life, that you are being used of Him. –from My Utmost for His Highest Updated Edition, Oswald Chambers

Image public domain, Bureau of Land Management California

The Lord Upholding

This is what God is always doing; this is who God is. He is the Lord upholding or sustaining, the Upholder, the Sustainer; He is the Lord lifting up, the Lifter. He is the Lord comforting or the Comforter of those who are bowed down.

Jesus and the Bent Over Woman, by Barbara Schwarz OP

 

The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds (camak) all those who fall (naphal) and lifts up (zaqaph) all who are bowed (kaphaph) down. Psalm 145:13-14 (NIV)

These are beautiful promises. And there is wonder-full hidden treasure in the Hebrew words. The word camak (סָמַךְ) means to bear up, support, uphold, sustain, refresh, revive.  The word zaqaph (זָקַף) means to raise up to life, to comfort. That is wonderful in itself, but the form in which the words are written here makes this verse even more amazing.

According to Barnes¹ camak and zaqaph as they are used here are participles. So, the first promise (camak) reads in the Hebrew “’The Lord sustaining;’ that is, the Lord is a Sustainer or Upholder of all that fall. The allusion is to those who have no power to go of themselves; who would sink under the burdens of life if they were not supported. The idea is, that it is a characteristic of the Lord, that he does sustain such; that all such may confidently look to him to uphold them.”

The second promise (zaqaph) reads, “’he is lifting up;’ that is, he is a lifter up. The reference is to those who are bent and bowed under the duties, the cares, the trials of life; who go bowed down under those burdens. God is able to strengthen them so that they can bear those burdens without being crushed under them.”

So, this verse is essentially declaring: this is what God is always doing; this is who God is. He is the Lord upholding or sustaining, the Upholder, the Sustainer; He is the Lord lifting up, the Lifter. He is the Lord comforting or the Comforter of those who are bowed down. Charles Spurgeon put it this way,

 “The form of the verb shows that he is always doing this; he is Jehovah upholding. His choice of the fallen, and the falling, as the subjects of his gracious help is specially to be noted. The fallen of our race, especially fallen women, are shunned by us, and it is peculiar tenderness on the Lord’s part that such he looks upon, even those who are at once the chief of sinners and the least regarded of mankind. The falling ones among us are too apt to be pushed down by the strong: their timidity and dependence make them the victims of the proud and domineering. To them also the Lord gives his upholding help. The Lord loves to reverse things,—he puts down the lofty, and lifts up the lowly. And raiseth up all those that be bowed down … Many are despondent, and cannot lift up their heads in courage, or their hearts with comfort; but these he cheers. Some are bent with their daily load, and these he strengthens. Jesus loosed a daughter of Abraham whom Satan had so bound that she was bowed down, and could by no means lift up herself. In this he proved himself to be the true Son of the Highest. Think of the Infinite bowing to lift up the bowed, and stooping to be leaned upon by those who are ready to fall. The two “alls” should not be overlooked: the Lord has a kindly heart towards the whole company of the afflicted.”²

 “The whole company of the afflicted.” Oh, I am definitely in that company too!

The word translated “those who fall” in this verse is naphal (נָפַל) and seems to cover every kind of “falling” there is: cast down, fail, fall away, fall down, be lost, overthrown, overwhelmed, thrown down, waste away, die, perish, rot. The word translated “bowed down” is kaphaph (כָּפַף) which means to be bowed down, bent or curved, as by circumstances or disease, to be discouraged. It also means to bow oneself down, as to God. These are the “all” that God cares for – the “failures,” the lost, the prodigals, the fallen, the overwhelmed, the dying, the discouraged and sick. The crippled woman who had been bent over double, bowed down, for eighteen years whom Jesus healed (Luke 13:10-16) was one of the “all,” one of the “whole company of the afflicted.”  I’m sure she was discouraged after all that time, overwhelmed, cast down. But praise God! He does not break the bruised reed, but strengthens it and supports it on His own precious self; He does not snuff out the smoldering wick, but gently blows on it to restore the flame (Isaiah 42:3).

With great compassion, Jesus was continually lifting people up during his earthly ministry. The woman taken in adultery (John 8:3 – 11), the lame, blind, crippled, mute (Matthew 15:30), the widow’s dead son (Luke 7:12 – 15), Lazarus (John 11:28 – 44). And he still is lifting us. He can, and has, and will raise you up.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:4-7 NIV)

If you are one of the “afflicted ones” or are praying for someone who is, remember and cling to these promises! God IS the Upholder, the Sustainer, the Lifter, the Raiser to Life – and so much more! He is doing it all the time, he can’t help himself – it’s who He Is. Reach out to him, he will not fail you.

But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up. (Mark 9:27 NIV)

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” (even so, surely, truth, verily, yea, yes) in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” (firm, faithful, verily, surely, truly, of a truth, so be it, so it is!) is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV)

Yes!! And Amen!!

Painting:  Jesus and the Bent Over Woman, by Barbara Schwarz OP http://artafire.homestead.com/  

¹ Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments, by Albert Barnes
² The Treasury of David, by Charles Spurgeon full-text online

 

Put on Jesus, Part two

When we “put on” or clothe ourselves with Jesus, we also are putting on the slave garment of humility. We are emptying ourselves to let God do whatever He wants with us. This is a hard thing to swallow for those of us who have wanted to do something wonderful for God.

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility towards one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5 NIV)

” … whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave–just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:26-27)

Put on Jesus Part one, explored the Greek word enduo which means to sink into, clothe, or put on, as in “putting on” Christ Jesus. There is another Greek word that means to clothe and that is egkomboomai (ἐγκομβόομαι). It is used only once in 1 Peter 5:5b, but it has helped me to understand better what it means to “put on” Jesus.

Egkomboomai has a very particular meaning. It means to engirdle oneself for labor, to put on “the apron as being a badge of servitude.” This apron “was the white scarf or apron of slaves, which was fastened to the belt of the vest and distinguished slaves from freemen, hence in 1Peter 5:5, ‘gird yourselves with humility as your servile garb’ means by putting on humility, show your subjection one to another. Also, this refers to the overalls which slaves wore to keep clean while working, an exceedingly humble garment.”[i] The root of egkomboomai is the Greek word komboo (κόμβος) which means to gird or to tie fast with a knot or band. Egkomboomai “seems to teach that humility is a garment which must be firmly fastened on and bound closely round us.”[ii] Perhaps this is because humility slips off us so easily, not being our natural state.

Jesus showed us how to do this, how to put on this slave garment of humility when he washed the disciples’ feet.

Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-5 NIV)

The Greek word translated “towel” in this verse is lention (λέντιον), and it is “the linen towel or apron with which servants put on when about to work.” So that is what Jesus did, he put on the badge of servitude, the thing that “distinguished slaves from freemen.” It was probably this, as much as the washing of the feet, that shocked Peter so much. The Lord, the Messiah, the King who was supposed to come and set his people free from Roman domination and give Israel a reason to be proud again, dressing up as the lowest of the low – a slave. That was not how it was supposed to be!

But notice what is says in John 13:3 – “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.” Jesus knew who and whose he was. He knew victory was a done deal. He also knew that the victory the Father had in mind was not going to be accomplished by insurrection and violence and forcing his Kingship. It would be by emptying himself, becoming a slave, totally giving it all up. Victory would be accomplished by sacrificial love.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant (or slave), and being made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-7 NASB)

When we “put on” or clothe ourselves with Jesus, we also are putting on the slave garment of humility. We are emptying ourselves to let God do whatever He wants with us. This is a hard thing to swallow for those of us who have wanted to do something wonderful for God – to be a great intercessor, healer, pastor, evangelist, missionary – blogger – something. To earn the approval of God and others, to be looked up to, maybe even (secretly or unconsciously) want to be admired, recognized. Instead, maybe to be forgotten, unknown, unrecognized, maybe even looked down upon. Possibly, to never know, in this life, if what you have done has made any difference at all. No wonder we need to tie the knot so tightly.

“God is not looking for impressive witnesses who will tell people about God but for humble witnesses who will “bear” God’s presence to others—be they powerful Pharaohs or poor beggars.”  J.C. Walt

“Bear God’s presence”! What an amazing, humbling thing! Could it be that putting on Christ Jesus, clothing myself with the garment of the humble Servant-King, is a way to bear His presence into a hurting, broken world? Lord Jesus, show me how to do that. Help me to tie the knot fast to you.

 

Image: Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image  released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

[i] Thayer’s New Testament Greek-English Lexicon

[ii] The Pulpit Commentary, edited by H. D. M. Spence, Joseph S. Exell

Put on Jesus, Part One

I am not, intrinsically, loving and compassionate, kind or humble. Definitely not patient. I am not incorruptible, imperishable, or immortal. I even have to put on faith and hope.

Rather, clothe yourselves with (put on) the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. (Romans 13:14 NIV)

I have really struggled with this concept. How do I “clothe” myself with (or “put on”) Jesus? Galatians 3:27 Paul also writes, “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.”  The New Living Translation translates that last part of the verse as “have been made like him” and I think that is a good clue. In both verses, the Greek word is enduo (ἐνδύω).

“Clothe yourself” or “put on” sounds like slipping into a jacket or something. In fact, in the parable of the Prodigal Son it is used that way, “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on (enduo) him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet” (Luke 15:22).

The word enduo means to sink into “in the sense of sinking into a garment,” “to invest with clothing … array, clothe, endue.” It comes from a word that means to “go into, enter, go under, be plunged into, sink into” and is used of the setting of the sun.[i]

“Sink into” reminds me of the feeling when you put on a favorite piece of clothing, a shirt or something that just makes you feel good, even secure. It also reminds me of John leaning back unto Jesus, sinking back unto His chest at the Last Supper (John 13:23). In fact, the word used for Jesus’ chest or bosom in that verse is kolpos (κόλπος), which in addition to meaning “the front of the body between the arms” also means “the bosom of a garment, i.e. the hollow formed by the upper forepart of a rather loose garment bound by a girdle or sash, used for keeping and carrying things” like a fold or pocket. It is the word used in Luke 6:38, “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom (kolpos). (KJV)” It also means a bay, as in a place of safety.[ii] In John 1:18 it says that Jesus is in the bosom (kolpos) of God.

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (NASB)

I love that! Jesus explained God to us. He is a loving Father who wants to keep us safe and carry us in the fold of His garment, in His bosom. And if we are in Jesus, if we have clothed ourselves with Jesus, endued ourselves with Jesus, have become like Him, we are there with Jesus. Paul says this is something that we can choose to do – clothe ourselves with Him. To be enveloped in Him.

“Sink into” or “plunge into” indicates complete commitment. You can’t plunge into a pool and at the same time just get your big toe wet. Jesus demands full commitment, giving up everything to follow. Romans 13:14 is translated in the New Living Testament as, “But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don’t think of ways to indulge your evil desires.” Oswald Chambers said in Disciples Indeed, “Jesus Christ is always unyielding to my claim to my right to myself. The one essential element in all our Lord’s teaching about discipleship is abandon, no calculation, no trace of self-interest.” Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” In denying ourselves we identify with Jesus, we put Him on, and gain so much more than we might lose.

A very old hymn expressed it this way:

Now crucified with Christ I am, the self within is slain
But still I live, and yet not I – Christ lives in me again
I am sinking out of self, out of self, into Christ
Sinking out self into Christ
I am sinking, sinking, sinking out of self
Sinking out of self into Christ (Sinking out of Self, W.F. Crafts, R. Lowry, c1875)

Here is a list of things that the New Testament says that we can put on or sink into (enduo):

Power from on high (Luke 24:49)

The Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14, Galatians 3:27)

Incorruption, imperishable body, immortality (1 Cor. 15:53)

New man (Ephesians 4:24, Colossians 3:10)

Armor of light (Romans 13:12)

Faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet (1 Thess. 5:8)

Whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11)

Compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience (Colossians 3:12)

Love (agape) (Colossians 3:14)

Pure, fine linen, white and clean (Rev. 15:6, 19:14)

All these things are only found in Jesus, are only available to us because of what Jesus did on the cross. Having to “put on” these things indicates to me that they are not in me. I am not, intrinsically, loving and compassionate, kind or humble. Definitely not patient. I am not incorruptible, imperishable, or immortal. I even have to put on faith and hope. If I don’t choose to put on Christ Jesus, I am left with myself; if I don’t put on incorruption and immortality, I am left with corruption and death; If I don’t put on His power, I am left with weakness; I am left with fear, hopelessness, bitterness, anger, sin and darkness. From the beginning God had to clothe us.

The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)

I am not, but He Is!

There is another word in the New Testament that means to clothe or put on. It is only used once, but it is very powerful. We will look at that word in part two of Put on Jesus next time.

 

 

Image from Holly Else https://www.timeshighereducation.com/content/holly-else

[i] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[ii] Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary

Command Joy

“Considering” afflictions as joy is not a victimized resignation or an unpalatable duty. It is leading with joy, commanding joy, it is taking authority [over self] and ruling, deeming, esteeming, judging my testing and trials as joy.

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. James 1:2-3 (NASB)

Wait! Don’t delete yet. I know, this is probably everyone’s least favorite verse in the Bible. I know I have secretly heard an accusing “You should” at the beginning of this verse. It is a very hard verse and one that I have wrestled with. Amplified a little it says:

Consider it all – each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything – joy when you encounter or fall into as to be encompassed, fall into something that is all around, be surrounded with various trials, or putting to proof, knowing that the testing, or proving or trial, of your faith produces endurance – steadfastness, constancy, cheerful or hopeful endurance.

I have been there, fallen down the hole, encompassed, surrounded with affliction and trouble. “Consider it all joy” sounds almost flippant when you are having a very hard time seeing light let alone joy. But looking at the Greek meanings of some of the words in this verse, especially the word translated “consider,” helps a lot in our understanding.

First, what is joy? The Greek word for joy is chara and means cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness.i It also means “joy, gladness, the cause or occasion of joy, of persons who are one’s joy.”ii People who are our joy, as when Paul wrote the church in Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 2:20), “Indeed, you are our glory and joy.” It is the word Jesus used when he said, “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance” (Luke 15:7 NASB). And also in Hebrews 12:2 where it says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” And in Matthew 13:44, “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” Jesus is the treasure in the field and we find Him with joy. So, we are His joy and He is ours. He promised to be with us always, through all the trials, and in His Presence there is fullness, abundance, satiety of joy (Psalm 16:11b).

The last word in James 1:3, translated “endurance,” is hupomone in the Greek. Hupomone means cheerful, or hopeful endurance, perseverance, steadfastness, constancy. The very root of hupomone is the word meno, which means to abide or remain, as in abiding in the Vine (see The Art of Remaining Present). The only way we can learn to endure or persevere through refining and pruning, is to remain present, remain in the Vine.

I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful … Remain (meno) in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me … I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15: 1-2, 4, 11 NIV)

So, it is possible to have joy in troubles, knowing that God is pruning us and that the pruning makes us more fruitful in this life, and it means that he considers us his children (Hebrew 12:5-8), and that, most wonderfully, he is always with us through it all.

And lo! (behold! see!) I am with (amid, among, together with) you always (daily, individually and collectively, all manner, all means, thoroughly, whatsoever, wholly, whosoever), to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20b (NASB)

Through all those “alls” in “consider it all joy,” he is there with us.

But, the most amazing, and hardest word, in this verse is the one translated “consider.” Many English words seem wimpy and almost apathetic in comparison to the original languages. The Oxford English Dictionary defines consider, in this context, as to “regard (someone or something) as having a specified quality.” So, the verse would say, Regard troubles and afflictions as having the quality of joy. Or, it can mean “believe; think,” as in, Believe it all joy. It also means to “look attentively at,” as in, Look attentively at joy when you encounter various trials. Finally, it can mean to “take (something) into account when making an assessment or judgment.” So, the verse could say, Take joy into account when assessing or judging the meaning or value of your afflictions.

Those last two English meanings are getting very close to the Greek, but still not everything that I need when I am sinking over my head and reaching up for the third and last time for something to grab unto – all but “look attentively at,” if what I am fixing my eyes on is the joy of Jesus. But the original Greek word, hegeomai, is amazing.

I was so surprised to find out that the word translated “consider” in this verse has a prime and root meaning of “to lead.” Strong’s defines it as, “to lead, i.e. command (with official authority); figuratively, to deem, i.e. consider,” to “(be) chief, count, esteem, governor, judge, have the rule over, suppose, think.” So James 1:2 could say, “Lead with joy” or “Command joy.” It means to command in an official authoritative capacity, and in that capacity to judge or assess. It means to rule over, to govern. So, what does this mean? “Considering” afflictions as joy is not a victimized resignation or an unpalatable duty. It is leading with joy, commanding joy, it is taking authority [over self] and ruling, deeming, esteeming, judging my testing and trials as joy. This verse is not unlike the psalmist’s command to self in Psalm 42:5 (NASB):

Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him For the help of His presence.

This is still not any easy thing to do. But fixing my eyes on Jesus – as the joy set before me, as he fixed his eyes on me – makes it easier. Douglas Taylor, when dying of liver cancer, wrote in his blog (Works Worth Declaring Oct. 11, 2012), “[Thomas] Watson has some very encouraging things to say [in his book, All Things for Good, 1663]. He actually affirms that afflictions make us happy. How can that be? The answer is that, if they are blessed to us, they bring us nearer to God … When the dove could not find any rest for the sole of her foot, then she flew to the ark. When God brings a deluge of affliction upon us, then we fly to the ark of Christ. Thus affliction makes us happy, in bringing us nearer to God. Faith can make use of the waters of affliction, to swim faster to Christ.”

Help me Lord not to sink in despair and self-pity, but to lead with joy, to command joy, and to swim faster to You.

i Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible ii Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

Image copyright Sheila Bair 2018

In the Morning Let Me Hear

In the morning let me

(shama) hear, listen to, obey, agree with, yield to your
(checed) unfailing love, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, mercy, pity, for I
(batach) trust, have confidence in, am bold and secure, in you.
(Yada) Show me, teach me, make known to me, help me to understand, discern, perceive and see, find out, recognize, admit, acknowledge, confess the
(derek) road, way, path, journey, direction, manner in which I should
(halak) walk, live, go, move, proceed, be lead,

for to you I lift up my soul,
You I long for, desire.

Psalm 143:8

 

Photo copyright Jack Bair

Hope Deferred

Love happens in the pain of hope, in the gritting of teeth and walking forward carrying the cross.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12

Have you ever felt heart-sick waiting for a prayer to be answered, a dream to come true, for the longing of your heart to be fulfilled? The Hebrew word in this verse translated “deferred” is mashak (מָשַׁך) which means to draw out, postpone, drag along. The waiting for hope to be fulfilled can definitely feel like that. But this word also has a surprising positive meaning too. It means to draw back the bow or to trail seed, as in drawing out seed from the bag and sowing it along behind you. In a previous post I explored how praising God is like shooting arrows (see notes on the Hebrew word yadah Prisoners of Hope). So, drawing back the bow is getting ready to praise Him for what we hope He will do. Keeping on believing and hoping, no matter what, no matter how long, is also a way of sowing seeds of life in others.

The word translated “sick” in the above verse is chalah (חָלָה) which means rubbed or worn, weak, sick, afflicted, grieved, diseased, in pain, but also to pray and make supplication, and a woman in travail. It is the same word as in Isaiah 53:10:

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer (chalah), and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

Jesus was afflicted, grieved, suffered pain, bore our disease. He also was praying for us (and is!), and travailing for us. He was sowing the most wonderful Seed:

I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. John 12:24

Connecting the ideas of sowing seed and being grieved reminds me of Psalm 126:5-6

Those who sow in tears shall reap with joyful shouting. He who goes to and fro (walks and walks, continually walks) weeping, carrying his bag of seed (trail of seed, drawing out of seed), Shall indeed come (shall come, shall come! Shall surely come, shall doubtless come) again with a shout of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. (NASB)

Walks and walks, continually walks – hope deferred. And, really, isn’t all hope deferred? It may be five minutes, or it may be 40 years, but if what you’re hoping for isn’t happening right now you have to hope for it. Paul said these three remain: faith, hope, and love. And the greatest is love.† You must have faith to have hope, faith in the One who promised, or there is no reason for hope. And love happens in the pain of hope, in the gritting of teeth and walking forward carrying the cross. Sowing the seed in tears, praying and travailing, pushing into the pain to bring forth life in death. Hope deferred, for me then, is the drawing back of the bow believing that I will be shooting the arrows of praise some day for answered prayer and fulfilled promises. “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13 NASB). Hope deferred is continuing to walk forward, following after Him, letting Him work in me, changing me. It is praying and travailing, speaking life, sowing the seeds of hope and redemption and salvation, in hope that they will spring up to His Life in me and – in His mighty power – others, sometime, somewhere.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. Romans 8:19-25 (NASB)

Image: The Sower (After Millet) by Vincent van Gogh [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

† 1 Corinthians 13:13

Every When

It’s not easy self – listen self I’m talking to you! – but open your mouth and start praying, start thanking him, start praising him, start giving out his love to people, and he will give you the strength and grace, even more than you need.

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up (despair, be discouraged, become faint, be weary, fail in heart). Luke 18:1

The word translated “always” in this verse is the Greek word “pantote” and literally means “every when,” i.e. at all times, at any opportunity, all the time, evermore.[i] At every when we are to pray and not give up – when we are depressed, when things look hopeless, when we have no friends or support, when we fail, when others fail us, when they turn against us, when we are angry and frustrated, when we just don’t get it, when we are in need, hungry, desperate, when our dreams are shattered and our hearts are broken. At every when we are to pray and not give up or give in to despair, discouragement, weariness, faint-heartedness.

Here are other things we are commanded to do at every when:

Be joyful always. 1 Thess 5:16[ii]

Rejoice in the Lord always. Phil 4:4

always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph 5:20

Let your conversation (speech) be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Col. 4:6

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 2 Cor. 4:10

Always give yourselves fully to (abounding in) the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Cor. 15:58

See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people. 1 Thess. 5:15 (NASB)

Therefore we are always confident (of good courage, of good cheer, bold) and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Cor. 5:6-7

And if all that seems impossible, it’s because it is impossible – for us, by ourselves. But our Lord does things too at every when:

And God is able (has the power) to make all grace abound to you, so that always – at every when! -having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance (superabound, have an excess, more than you need) for every good deed. 2 Cor. 9:8 (NASB)

Therefore he is able (has the power) to save (to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction, to make well, heal, restore to health, deliver, protect, make whole) completely (completely, perfectly, utterly) those who come to God through him, because he always – at every when! – lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:25

But thanks be to God, who always – at every when! – leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. 2 Cor. 2:14

He is able! Abound! Superabound! More than you need! Triumphal! That doesn’t leave much room for failure. But we have to remember – and I’m talking to myself here above all – we have to remember that He is able, He has the power, He is the Wonderful one (Isaiah 9:6). He’s always up there praying for us. “I can do all things (have strength to overcome) through Christ who strengthens me” Phil. 4:13 (NKJV). It’s not easy self – listen self I’m talking to you! – but open your mouth and start praying, start thanking him, start praising him, start giving out his love to people, and he will give you the strength and grace, even more than you need.

There is another verse that uses pantote in the Bible. It reflects his great heart of love, that we should always be in his Presence, every when, at all times, at any opportunity, all the time, evermore:

Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 1 Thess. 4:17

 

Image from Flickr, Praying Woman Hands by Long Thiên

[i] All definitions are from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament

[ii] All verses from the New International Version unless otherwise noted